Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Government challenges Treasury on pension reform

The Scottish Government has had an angry exchange of correspondence with the Treasury over their plans for a UK Public Sector Pension Reform Bill. While pension regulation is a devolved matter, primary legislation is reserved, so this legislation could cover all public service pension schemes in Scotland
Treasury minister, Danny Alexander MP has written to Cabinet Secretary, John Swinney MSP outlining the Bill provisions. These include, as expected, the equalisation of Normal Pension Ages with the State Pension Age and transitional arrangements for those within 10 years of retirement. It is also implied that all schemes will be career average rather than final salary, although this is not clearly stated.
His letter also indicates that each scheme must have a cost cap and changes to schemes will require prior consent of the Treasury. While this has always been the case for the NHS scheme, because the Treasury underwrites the cost, it has not been the case for the Local Government Pension Scheme in Scotland. The letter implies that the LGPS will come under Treasury control in future, despite the fact that funding is a matter for local authorities, not the Treasury.
As with previous exchanges, the Treasury letters are vague on key points and the Scottish Government has sought additional clarification. The Cabinet Secretary has described the Treasury’s actions as "unwarranted interference in reform discussions in Scotland". It is hard to disagree with that analysis. However, we will need to see the further clarification and the draft Bill to be certain what exactly the UK Government is proposing and the implications for the NHS and local government schemes.
NHS Scottish negotiations are continuing with detailed consideration of the cost of different options. Clarity is also required from the Scottish Government on the key issue of year 2 and 3 contribution increases and further meetings are planned. However, the Treasury’s intervention, as set out above, clearly has an impact on the scope for negotiation.

Monday, 23 July 2012

UNISON response to Taxpayers' Alliance pensions nonsense

"Financially illiterate drivel aimed at advancing a political agenda to make pensioners poorer" says public services union
UNISON, Scotland largest union in Scotland’s public services, is today calling on the so-called Taxpayers' Alliance (TPA), to get its facts straight after the shady right-wing, low-tax pressure group attacked local government pensions. Again.
Payments into the Local Government Pension Scheme in Scotland last year were £299.944 million MORE than being paid out to pensioners. This inconvenient fact is ignored by the self styled think tank - who likewise seem not to have noticed a connection between the cuts in council workforce that that they have been urging and decline in local government workers paying in to the pension schemes
The tax dodgers' alliance report points out the LGPS like is maturing with an increasing number of pensioners. What they fail to mention is that this is the case with almost all pension funds in the UK.
Similarly unmentioned are;
· That the pension funds enjoy an enormous income from investment – and so aren’t entirely reliant on contributions from members and employers
· That a recent (2011) actuarial valuation of the Local Government Pension Scheme Scotland was very positive
· The LGPS Scotland is currently taking in almost £300 million per year more than it is paying out.
· Even in the event that the scheme was felt to be under pressure - a cost sharing agreement is in place.
· Just 5p in every £1 paid in council tax goes towards pensions. Councils get only 25% of their revenue from council tax, 75% comes from other sources, including business rates and local government grants.
· The numbers in the tax Dodgers Alliance report would only begin to make sense if everyone in local government decided to retire on the same day - a social, political and actuarial absurdity.
Mike Kirby, UNISON Scottish Secretary, said:
"This right-wing pressure group never lets facts get in the way of attacking public services and the people that deliver them. This is financially illiterate drivel. The TPA are simply out of touch with reality.
Pensions for local government are an affordable way of people saving for their retirement - and the results of that are modest enough the average pensions for council workers in Scotland is just £4,000 a year, dropping to just £2,800 for women.
We need to bring private sector pensions up to a decent level, not pull public sector pensions down - two thirds of employees do not get a single penny in contributions from their employers towards their pensions. The government's plans for auto-enrolment will not go far enough to keep people off means tested benefits.”

On-Call Offer from NHS Employers Scotland: Frequently Asked Questions

Does this offer only apply to On-Call? Does it include Standby?
This offer applies to both types of emergency cover. A member of staff is On Call when, as part of an established arrangement with his/her employer, he/she is available outside his/her normal working hours – either at the workplace, at home or elsewhere – to work as and when required.
If implemented, will this replace the Agenda for Change On Call arrangements in the Terms and Conditions Handbook?
Yes. Paragraphs 2.31 - 2.49 will be deleted and a section will be inserted to reflect the new arrangements.
What are the main features of the new arrangements?
From 1 October 2012 availability payment of £16.50 per session.
From 1 April 2013 availability payment of £17 per session.
From 1 April 2014 availability payment of £18 per session.
Payment for work done, including travel, will be at time and a half, except on public holidays which will be paid at double time.
What is the “Chisholm Agreement”?
In March 2003, a decision was taken by Malcolm Chisholm, who was at that time was the Scottish Minister for Health, to ensure that no Scottish employee would suffer a loss of existing earnings as a result of the implementation of Agenda for Change terms and conditions. This was initially applied to the results of the matching process but was also applied to the implementation of changes to Unsocial Hours Payments, which took effect in 2008. The Staff Side has successfully argued that since the new proposed On Call arrangements form the final part of the implementation of the Agenda for Change terms and conditions then the “Chisholm Agreement” should also apply.
What does ‘mark time’ protection mean?
Your total earnings including On Call will be calculated over a reference period (3 to 12 months?). If your earnings under your old payment regime locally is more than that provided under these new arrangements, then your prior total earnings will be protected. That level or previous level of earnings will continue to be paid on a ‘mark time’ basis (i.e. no increments or cost of living increase payments) until your old earnings are overtaken by the level of earnings achieved under the new arrangements; or until you change jobs or leave the NHS.
The offer gives an implementation date of October. What if Payroll systems haven’t time to implement the new arrangement or calculate protection by then?
The phrase “with no retrospection” means that implementation will not take place before 1 October 2012. If Board Payroll systems don’t manage to process the new arrangements until sometime later staff will receive any outstanding arrears.
How will UNISON consult the members in Scotland?
The Electoral Reform Society is conducting an all members’ ballot on these proposals. The ballot opens on 27 July and closes on 17 August 2012. All the NHS Trade Unions will consider the outcome of their consultations and meet the Scottish Employers on 31 August 2012.
Who will be eligible to vote in the consultative ballot?
All UNISON members in Scotland, whether or not you currently work On Call.
How much scope is there for improving the offer if the consultative ballot results in a 'NO' vote?
It is the collective view of all of the staff side organisations on the negotiating sub group that this is the best we can achieve by negotiation: we have moved the management position significantly since their initial offer. If the offer is rejected, members then have recourse to seek a ballot on industrial action.
UNISON’s Scottish Health Committee is recommending ACCEPTANCE of the proposals.
Only my basic salary plus stand-by allowance is pensionable. Earnings from Calls are not pensionable. I have been on the On Call rota for several years. Are these earnings not “regular and a continued feature of the job”?
The Scottish Pensions Agency does not accept that On Call earnings and overtime fit that definition.
I am in receipt of protection of earnings (due to organisational change). The proposed new arrangements state that protection will be on a ‘mark time basis’, but my current organisational change protection provides an uplift each year (when we eventually get a pay rise). Will this new agreement, if accepted, affect my protection or will it continue as it currently stands?
If accepted, the new proposals will have no effect on the current organisational change protection which applies to your pay.
Does AFC para 27.17 provide scope for local agreement on compensatory rest?
Para 27.17 is not there to enable local agreements to be reached which breach or improve upon the WTRegs - it is simply saying that if daily rest periods are regularly breached then there must be local agreement. The reason that the Scottish HDL2003/3 is referenced in the offer is because the WTRegs Framework contained within the HDL gives more detailed information about Compensatory Rest than Section 27.
My query is regarding the ‘sleeping in’ payments, where staff will be paid ‘at appropriate rate for work done in line with On Call’. How will the hours worked be calculated? Will it be only the hours/minutes worked or will it be payment for each undisturbed period (as with the ‘Calls’ arrangements) or will it be a flat rate for the total hours worked/sleeping in?
The section of the offer which is headed “Sleeping in” does not refer to the stand by arrangements which Radiographers work when they are in the hospital overnight – it refers to staff who work in situations where they are obliged to sleep in their place of work e.g. care homes, residential establishments for children and adolescents who are in care.
When levels of protection are calculated could an average be worked out for the department rather than per individual, so all staff are paid the same?
No. Levels of pay protection are calculated on an individual basis.
How do I find out more?

Contact The Branch by e-mail or phone   - ask for a local meeting for a few of you if you like !


On Call Negotiations - Final Management Offer

Following negotiations with NHS Scotland employers UNISON and the other trade unions have agreed that the offer put on the table by our employers is the best that can be achieved through negotiation.
As a consequence of this being a we are writing to all members to consult them on the terms of the employers’ proposals.

Key points
  • From 1 October 2012 availability payment of £16.50 per session.
  • From 1 April 2013 availability payment of £17 per session.
  • From 1 April 2014 availability payment of £18 per session.
  • Payment for work done, including travel, will be at time and a half, except on public holidays which will be paid at double time.


  • Any member who requires protection, this will be on a mark time basis and will be offset by annual pay and incremental uplifts.

Key Dates

  • Ballot opens 27 July 2012
  • Ballot closes 17 August 2012
  • Ballot result reported to On Call Staff Side meeting 24 August 2012
  • Meeting with Employers 31 August 2012
  • Branches will be holding members’ meetings